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Marriage in Maryland?

Supporters optimistic, but 2012 referendum expected

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Advocates for same-sex marriage in Maryland, including the seven gay and lesbian members of the state legislature, are optimistic that the legislature will pass a marriage equality bill in 2011 but they are less certain about the prospects for a transgender rights bill.

The gains in the number of supporters of a same-sex marriage bill in the November election and commitments by top leaders of the legislature to name marriage equality supporters to the committees that must clear them appear to have tipped the balance in favor of the bill passing, according to advocates and lawmakers.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that we’ve got the votes to push this bill through in this session, and that’s what we intend to do,” said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), a lesbian.

News surfaced last week that the main bottleneck in preventing the bill’s passage during the past few years – its blockage in the state Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee – would be lifted when the legislature convenes in January. Changes in the committee’s makeup due to the election and a decision by one marriage equality opponent to move to another committee make it nearly certain that the committee will vote to send the bill to the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee in the House of Delegates, which has been supportive of a marriage equality bill in the past, is also undergoing a major change in membership, and its composition won’t be disclosed until January.

But Mizeur told the Blade this week that Del. Mike Busch (D-Annapolis), who serves as Speaker of the House, has indicated to her and other gay and lesbian caucus members that he will make sure the committee’s pro-gay marriage majority is maintained.

“We didn’t meet with him as a full caucus,” Mizeur said. “But many of us individually have reached out to him. We kind of said it’s important that the Judiciary Committee’s open positions get assigned to people who are pro-marriage equality. And it’s been a very positive conversation.”

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, said the now expanded LGBT caucus in the legislature, which climbed from four to seven following the November election, will also play a key role in helping to pass a marriage bill in 2011.

“They will do much of the heavy lifting,” she said.

Meneses-Sheets noted that everything must come together in just 90 days, beginning in January, during the three-month-long 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

“I do think we can make this happen,” she said.

With head counts showing that the bill should clear the House of Delegates, both in committee and on the floor, and general consensus that it will clear the Senate committee, Meneses-Sheets said the next hurdle would be to overcome a filibuster on the floor of the Senate.

She said Equality Maryland and other advocates for the bill believe they have the 29 votes needed to stop a filibuster in the 47-member Senate. Once that hurdle is cleared, just 24 votes are needed to pass the bill in a direct floor vote.

Gov. Martin O’Malley told the Blade in an exclusive 2007 interview that he would sign a marriage equality bill; he reiterated that pledge during his successful campaign for re-election last month.

Meneses-Sheets said advocates for a pending transgender rights bill believe they have the votes to pass that measure in the House of Delegate if not the Senate, too. But similar to the gay marriage bill in past years, the main hurdle for the transgender measure is getting it out of committee in both the House and Senate, she said.

The bill would add the terms gender identity and expression to the categories included in an existing state civil rights law.

The General Assembly added sexual orientation protection to the state’s civil rights statute in 2001 under the administration of former Gov. Parris Glendenning.

“[The transgender bill] is where the committee assignments are even more important because it goes to the [House] Committee on Health and Government Operations,” she said. “It’s typically been a tough committee for us. They don’t deal with a lot of social policy bills like this one. So in the past, we’ve been short a good number of votes in order to get it out.”

Montgomery County transgender advocate Dana Beyer, who ran unsuccessfully in November for a seat in the House of Delegates, said she is more optimistic over the transgender bill, saying she believes LGBT allies in the General Assembly’s two bodies will help move the bill out of the two committees.

“I feel whatever has happened with the marriage bill should happen with the gender identity and expression bill,” Beyer said. “Mike Miller [president of the Senate] said he wants a floor vote on marriage. I feel that will apply to gender identity, too.”

Beyer said she’s confident that both the marriage and transgender bills will pass in the General Assembly in 2011, leading to yet another big hurdle for both measures: She’s certain that opponents will gather the required number of signatures to bring both bills before the voters in 2012 in separate referendums.

“I think we’re going to find ourselves with two Proposition 8s,” she said, referring to the California ballot measure that overturned that state’s same-sex marriage law.

Under Maryland law, bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor are placed on hold if sufficient signatures are obtained to call a referendum on a measure.

A recent Washington Post poll showed that 46 percent of Maryland residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage, 44 percent oppose it and 10 percent had no opinion. Opponents of same-sex marriage, led by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, point out that voters have banned or overturned same-sex marriage laws in every state that such laws have come up on the ballot, even in cases where public opinion polls showed support for gay marriage.

Mizeur and Meneses-Sheets said the four out gay or lesbian incumbents in the General Assembly have lobbied their fellow lawmakers for the marriage bill in a low-key way in colleague-to-colleague discussions.

Two sources familiar with the caucus, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said some LGBT activists have expressed concern that the caucus has not been aggressive enough in lining up more co-sponsors for the marriage bill. In particular, they expressed concern that Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), the most senior LGBT caucus member and one of three delegates representing District 43 in Baltimore, has shied away from LGBT issues in her public statements and constituent mailings, including the same-sex marriage debate.

Noting that McIntosh is widely recognized as vying for the position of Speaker of the House when the post becomes vacant, one of the sources wondered whether she was backing away from speaking out publicly on the marriage bill to avoid generating opponents in a future quest for the speaker’s position.

“I absolutely disagree with that,” said Mizeur. “Maggie is as visible and vocal and supportive on our issues as any other member of the caucus.”

Mizeur added, “I do think that Maggie will make a great Speaker of the House and I would put money on the fact that she will be the next Speaker of the House. And she doesn’t play politics with the gay and lesbian community on changing who she is or how visible she would be on an issue in order to attain that goal.”

Voters in District 43, while re-electing McIntosh in November, also elected Mary Washington, the nation’s second black lesbian to win election to a state legislature and, like McIntosh, a supporter of the marriage equality bill.

But the district’s voters also have continued to elect same-sex marriage opponent Joan Carter Conway, also a Democrat, as their state senator. McIntosh has not stated publicly whether she has approached Conway to change her mind on the bill.

McIntosh and two other incumbent LGBT caucus members – Sen. Richard Madeleno and Del. Anne Kaiser, both Democrats from Montgomery County – did not return calls by press time.

The newly elected LGBT caucus members – Washington, and delegates-elect Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) – have each said they would work hard to secure the votes needed to pass the marriage bill.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. adx

    December 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Well, if you’re going to be naive and wimpy about it, then this is a dead deal. There’ s no use in going forward, trust me. If the vote goes through, the ANTI-GAY WILL BEGIN SIGNATURE-GATHERING, and the cause will be lost. Count on it. What you *must* do is to take them to court on any of numerous grounds: to prevent majority vote on a minority right, with legal precedent; to prevent a majority vote enacted out of anti-gay animus, with legal precedent; to prevent their right to disenfranchise a minority of its rights, with legal precedent. You know the drill. There is also the matter of that signature-gathering; and I’d take them to court for that, too, on every occasion where I saw every signature-gatherer trying any funny business. This would be the SEASON OF LAWSUITS if I had any say in the matter, because without that, YOU WILL NOT, repeat *NOT* pass marriage equality in Maryland. But the most determined, refuse-to-back-down lawsuits of all should be reserved for the ADVERTS PLACED ON AIR for the public vote. Every time those public votes come up, the ANTI-GAY produce commercials making claims that are CLEARLY actionable in court, and no one ever does a thing about, so you have only yourselves to blame. This time, when they start releasing their adverts, take them to court for that, as well. They are HIGHLY litigious themselves and you have nothing to lose by taking them to court on every grounds you can find. I am saying this because it is simple truth. Without fighting them so savagely that their heads spin, ya WON’T pass marriage equality in Maryland, I promise you. They are in a sense even INVITING you to do so, since they are so litigious THAT YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!

  2. Tim

    December 17, 2010 at 1:11 am

    The LGBT community in Maryland really needs to make a point of running either Pro-LGBT or openly gay candidates against the handful of anti-gay Democrats who are holding things up in the Maryland General Assembly. The prospect of the referendums being drummed up by the obnoxious National Organization for Marriage bigots has me worried. Leave it to these hateful clowns to throw a wet blanket on the celebration and or ruin it like they did in California and Maine. We simply must beat these SOBs this time and keep same-sex marriage in Maryland if it passes.

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2021 Best of LGBTQ DC Readers’ Choice Award Finalist Voting

Vote for your favorite finalist in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd.

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It is Decision 2021! You nominated and now we have our Top 5 finalists. Vote for your favorites in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd. Our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ DC Awards Party on October 21st and our special issue will come out on Friday, October 22nd.

Thank you to our sponsors: ABSOLUT, PEPCO, Washington Regional Transplant Community.

Vote below or by clicking HERE.

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Veteran restauranteurs to open Drift in Rehoboth

Second Block Hospitality eyes 2022 debut for new raw bar

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Double L, Diego's Hideaway, Fourth, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
A new raw bar is coming to Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite the generally anti-business positions of the current Rehoboth Beach Mayor and some members of the Rehoboth Beach Commission, there are still some entrepreneurs who have faith in Rehoboth Beach.

One such group is the newly announced Second Block Hospitality Group, which brings together local industry leaders Lion Gardner, Tyler Townsend, Bob Suppies, and David Gonce.

According to the partners, “The mission of Second Block Hospitality is simple…to deliver exceptional hospitality. Second Block projects will be designed to become places that matter; that bring the community together. They aim to create unique spaces that foster positivity, a creative atmosphere, and memorable experiences. Driven by this philosophy we are thoughtful in everything we do, down to the smallest detail. In all our endeavors we are committed to crafting unique guest experiences through innovative design, authentic flavors, and warm hospitality.”

Their first new venture, Drift, will be a raw bar and dining room on Baltimore Avenue. The new project, already underway, is a massive restoration designed to transform the existing building, originally built in 1890 and used as a camp meeting house, into a modern structure with historic charm. Drift restaurant will feature a refined design, open airy spaces and lots of glass for open vantage points with an indoor/outdoor bar area and intimate back patio that will add to the allure of Baltimore Avenue.

“We could not be more excited to be breaking ground on another passion project,” said Suppies. “Coming through the last year brought many new challenges to our industry, but we were able to get very creative and grow as a company, so this new venture is very exciting for us.”

Another of the partners, Gardner, brings his skill set as a longtime chef to the new venture.

“One of my roles in the company will be to oversee the menu and kitchen at Drift and all of our projects moving forward,” Gardner said. “The great thing about our ownership group is that even though each partner has his own area of expertise, there is collaboration across the board; we are all involved in all aspects of the business. I am excited to learn and contribute in other areas as well, and luckily for me I’m working with a group of really talented, experienced and passionate guys.”

Drift is slated to open sometime in early 2022, and things are in full swing for the new restaurant owners, including menu planning. Townsend said, “Drift will be a true raw bar focusing on the art of raw seafood and not just oysters, along with traditionally prepared dishes influenced by the sea. From a beverage standpoint we will feature craft cocktails and eccentric wine and beer offerings. Think small and intimate, rustic and classic, yet casual with a focus on culinary inventiveness and creative spaces.” and good times. For more information visit driftrb.com.

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McAuliffe participates in Virginia Pride roundtable

Gubernatorial candidate highlighted plans to keep Va. ‘open and welcoming’

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Monday met with Virginia Pride in Richmond to discuss his plans to keep the state “open and welcoming” for the LGBTQ community.

“Great opportunity to speak with @VA_Pride in Richmond this AM,” McAuliffe tweeted following the roundtable that took place at Diversity Richmond’s headquarters. “VA is the #1 state for business because we are open and welcoming — but that’s all at risk this November. Glenn Youngkin’s far-right social agenda would harm LGBTQ+ Virginians and send our economy into a ditch.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin are running a close race for the governorship, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Saturday that shows the former Virginia governor leading by a 50-47 percent margin among likely voters.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, for his record of supporting LGBTQ rights, including supporting marriage equality and signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees as his first action in office. 

“LGBTQ leaders in Richmond had a great meeting with Gov. McAuliffe where he was able to lay out his agenda for building on the tremendous progress Virginia has made towards equality,” said Virginia Pride Program Director James Millner in an email to the Washington Blade. “The governor talked extensively about his record on LGBTQ issues and promised to work with us to ensure that every LGBTQ Virginian is able to live openly and authentically.”

McAuliffe’s legacy includes welcoming businesses turned off by North Carolina’s passage of its anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” 

When North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law requiring students to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificates, took effect in 2016, McAullife recruited CoStar, a real estate information company that operates databases for Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com and similar companies, to move its headquarters to Richmond. This recruitment brought 730 jobs to the state.

David Dorsch, a senior vice president at Cushman and Wakefield, which represented CoStar nationally, told the Charlotte Business Journal that CoStar’s primary reason for choosing “Richmond over Charlotte was HB 2.”

Youngkin is a former business executive who previously ran the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm named by the HRC in 2019 as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. HRC, however, has called out Youngkin for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his current campaign.

McAuliffe in April released an LGBTQ rights platform that includes a call to repeal the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Governor Ralph Northam, who was McAuliffe’s former lieutenant governor and has signed historic LGBTQ-inclusive legislation during his time in office, also endorsed McAuliffe for governor.

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